Galway is often regarded as the most 'Irish' of Irish cities. The brightly painted pubs, cobbled streets and fish and chip shops certainly live up to the quaint, picture-postcard image of Ireland, and it's the perfect place to buy an Aran sweater or a Claddagh ring, but the long-standing tradition for fine food, frothy Guinness and lively music is far more than just a tourist gimmick.
As the cultural heart of Ireland, Galway is the best place to experience traditional Irish music, culture and cuisine in its modern interpretation. The city gets its creative atmosphere from its residents; artistic and bohemian, a quarter of the city's population is made up of students. A constant stream of festivals and events includes the Galway Races, the Galway Arts Festival and the famous Galway Oyster Festival. See below for a more extensive calendar of events.
Galway is renowned for its wet weather, even by Irish standards, but even during a downpour there's plenty to distract you from the rain. As well as being a vibrant centre with a world-renowned entertainment scene, Galway also provides a great base for exploring Ireland's beautiful west coast.
Things to do in Galway city
- • Eyre Square: the starting point for most visits to Galway, a pleasant town square surrounded by shops and restaurants, with a shopping centre to one side where you can still see a large part of the city's medieval stone walls.
- • Lynch's Castle: located on Shop St., the elegant 14th-century mansion was once the residence of the Lynch family, who ruled Galway for around 500 years. Now home to a bank, the building still boasts the grim reminder of a skull-and-crossbones motif in the window where Lynch Sr. was said to have hanged his own son, who was sentenced to death for killing a Spaniard.
- • St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church: behind the castle, this church showcases an interesting collection of religious relics and curiosities, and is said to have been visited by Christopher Columbus in 1477.
- • Galway Cathedral: a catholic cathedral built in 1958 on the site of the old jail, the impressive Renaissance-style dome is a prominent landmark on the city skyline at 145 ft.
- • The Spanish Arch: set on the River Corrib, the only surviving gateway to the old trading town, built in 1584 as a defensive bastion for the port.
- • Galway City Museum: behind the Spanish Arch, housing permanent and temporary exhibits exploring the history and heritage of the city and county of Galway, with an impressive collection of currach (Irish skin boats).
- • Salthill: a popular seaside resort located just a short distance away from the city centre, with attractive beaches, a fun fair and a traditional promenade.
- • Galway International Rally (February)
- • Tedfest (February-March)
- • Connemara International Marathon (April)
- • Cúirt International Festival of Literature (April)
- • Galway Sessions (June)
- • Galway Film Fleadh (July)
- • Galway Arts Festival (July)
- • Galway Races (July-August)
- • Galway Hooker Festival (August)
- • Clifden Arts Festival (September)
- • Galway International Oyster Festival (September)
- • Baboró Arts Festival for Children (October)
Staying in a Galway B&B can be a great way to experience local life; as well as being more affordable than a hotel, you'll usually get a delicious home cooked breakfast to boot!
Located close to the beach on Galway Bay, just a 10-minute walk from Salthill and within easy reach of the city centre, Galway B&B Amber Hill offers luxury accommodation in stylish, well-appointed guestrooms. The spacious en-suite doubles, twins and family rooms all feature TVs, DVD players and tea/coffee-making facilities, and a tasty continental or full Irish breakfast is served every morning in the cosy dining room.See more Galway B&Bs
Galway Airport is around 6 miles from the city centre, and the main train and bus stations are both located next to Eyre Square. Taxis can be easily flagged down, although most of the city's areas and attractions can be reached on foot.
Co. Galway and around
- • Lough Corrib: Ireland's second largest lough, surrounded by farmland, bog and the dramatic landscape of Connemara. Lough Corrib is dotted by 365 islands and joins the sea at Galway via a 12th-century canal. Many visitors to Lough Corrib choose to stay in the charming village of Cong.
- • Aran Islands: just 15 miles southwest of Galway city, a visit to the islands of Inis Mór (Inishmore), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan) and Inis Oírr (Inisheer) is like stepping back in time. Despite the crowds of tourists who flock to Inishmore, the largest island, in summer, inhabitants of the islands have enjoyed and preserved their isolation for thousands of years, relying on fishing and farming for their livelihood. Today, locals still maintain a traditional lifestyle, and almost all speak Irish. The landscape comprises jagged cliffs, pristine beaches, abandoned fields and miles upon miles of dry stone walls.
- • Connemara: rugged mountains and a complicated network of inlets, islands and lakes together with rugged mountains give Connemara one of the most varied landscapes in Ireland. Visitors to this sparsely populated area are drawn by the beautiful beaches, cosy fishing villages and the endless opportunities for undisturbed exploration. At the heart of Connemara is the lively town of Clifden, a popular place to stay.
- • Cliffs of Moher: also in Co. Clare but easily reached from Galway city, the Cliffs of Moher are justifiably one of Ireland's most-visited sites. At its highest point, the cliff is a sheer 700ft drop down to the churning seas below; with frequent high winds you need to be something of a daredevil to peek over from the very edge. Many visitors to the cliffs stay at Doolin, where you can also catch a ferry to the Aran Islands.
- • The Burren: down in neighbouring Co. Clare, the Burren is made up of 100 square miles of jagged hills and labyrinthine caves, peppered with ancient monuments including Neolithic tombs, dolmens and ring forts as well as a surprising array of rare flora and fauna.
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By Eleanor Brown